The best from 2016: BFNL’s outstanding personalities

benflNORMALLY a list of the Top 10 or 12 people in various disciplines is compiled by sports journos at the end of every calendar year.

But only now am I presented with the first opportunity to pass on my thoughts.

It was a significant year, that highly entertaining 2016 season which ended seven months ago.

Sandhurst snapped a 12-year senior premiership drought, star Dragon midfielder Kristan Height scooped up just about every individual medal on offer while Kangaroo Flat stopped Golden Square claiming back-to-back A grade netball flags with a nine-goal grand final win over the Bulldogs.

Off the field, too, there were some significant happenings.

Last December Carol Cathcart stepped up to the top job at AFL Central Victoria -– the region’s general manager -- after 19 months as BFNL manager.
And in the same pre-Xmas situation former BFNL board chairman Paul Byrne and fellow member Ron Cawthan stood down after a number of years helping to run Bendigo footy and netball.

At the other end of the scale Maryborough coach Shane Skontra endured a winless season of huge defeats with the Magpies, even stepping up to play when his senior side was short on numbers --- and injuring himself into the bargain.

But he stuck it out and signed on again for this year.
Here’s my list, but in no particular order:

1/. Wayne Primmer: as coach, helped deliver Sandhurst’s first senior premiership in a dozen years thanks in no small part to a tough pre-season training schedule.
And his rigorous summer training programme was in full swing again, pre-Christmas, with Primmer asserting the Dragons were in much better shape the second time around.
The Dragons under Primmer’s leadership lost just two games in 2016 and went through the finals series undefeated.

Primmer played 40 games with AFL club Essendon (1977-79), booting 74 goals, and winning the Bombers’ goalkicking award in 1978 with 47.

2/. Carol Cathcart: took over from departing AFL Central Victoria general manager Paul Hamilton and became the first woman in Victoria to hold such a position.
She’d been BFNL general manager since May 2015 and rose to her watershed appointment in mid-December.

Carol’s new role was endorsed by AFL Country Victoria chairman Andrew Cooney who stressed Carol’s strategic thinking allowed her to grasp the challenges faced by regional and rural clubs across her central Victorian mandate of five leagues.

3/. Dylan Johnstone: won the Ron Best Medal as the BFNL’s leading senior goalkicker in his first Bendigo season.
He nailed 79 majors to just hold off defending ace sharp-shooter Matt Gretgrix who ended on 77. Johnstone sealed his medal with four goals in the crucial Rd. 18 game at MyJet Oval against the Hawks when the G-Train could land just the one.

I saw Johnstone boot five goals for the Square down at Kyneton in Rd. 17 which opened up just a big enough gap over Gretgrix to enable him to clinch the medal.

4/. Brett Fitzpatrick: inter-league coach who led the Blue and Gold to success at Warragul in their May fixture against Gippsland.
Bendigo downed Gippy for the fourth, consecutive time winning 17.10 (112) to 12.7 (79) as Storm’s Trent Donnan was named best afield.
Fitzy has been re-appointed coach of the BFNL (10th) for the May, 2017 clash against Ballarat (9th).
It’s Fitzgerald’s second stint at the helm of the Blue and Gold as he was also the inter-league coach from 2005 to 2008 when Bendigo worked its way back up the AFL Victoria state rankings.

5/. Simon Rosa: Golden Square star who retired on grand final evening after emphasising his class by taking home the AFL Country Victoria medal. And, remember, he was in the beaten side.

Rosa played so many stellar games for the Bulldogs --- and for the Bendigo representative side --- that he must own a jam-packed career highlights reel and audio tape.
His poise and steadiness when the Dogs were under pressure was memorable and so, too, was his ability to link up with other Square midfielders to push his side into attack.

Plus he bobbed up regularly with a goal or two for the Square, so his presence around the BFNL will be sorely missed.

6/. Shane Skontra: Maryborough senior coach who shouldered the biggest burden in the BFNL during 2016.
The Magpies didn’t win a game, regularly succumbing to massive 190 to 200-point floggings by clubs in the Top Five. Square beat the Magpies 39.20 to 7.5 in June.
Yet Skontra said in an extended Addy interview in mid-season he was committed to a three-to-four-year term at Princes Park.

Connecting to the community as well as to the nearby clubs needed improvement, said Skontra, whose Magpies have now gone two complete winless seasons. They last sang the club song in 2014, a season which yielded 5 wins.

7/. Janelle Hobbs: Kangaroo Flat A grade netball coach who oversaw the Roos 56-47 grand final win over arch-nemesis Golden Square, the Flat’s second flag in three years.

Hobbs’ team won both home and away clashes against the Square including a 12-goal victory in the concluding game before the finals at MyJet Oval.

Despite the Flat playing just the one game since that Round 18 win over the Bulldogs on August 27, Hobbs had her side in tip-top condition for the big game on September 24 following on from their 42-38 second semi win over the Dragons.

8/. Kristan Height: on-field leader and multi-medallion winner with Sandhurst during an outstanding 2016 season.
Won the Michelsen Medal with 24 votes, one ahead of Strathfieldsaye’s Kallen Geary. That gave Height a rare treble: the Bendigo league medal plus the fairest and best in the Goulburn Valley and Ovens and Murray leagues.

To cap it all off Height won the Nalder Medal as best afield in Hurst’s 32-point grand final win. It was no surprise that he was voted Sandhurst’s best for the year to take home the Sandy McPherson trophy, as well, to go with his most prized of all: a 2016 premiership medal.

9/. Paul Byrne and Ron Cawthan: finished up their terms as BFNL board members in December after reasonably long stints helping run the two local codes.
Byrne joined the board in 2008 and was BFNL chairman for a period while Cawthan joined up in 2010, the year he was inducted into the BFNL Hall of Fame.

As BFNL chairman Byrne helped establish the administration hub and he was always available for discussion when our little Hall Of Fame selection panel was deep in thought about the candidates during the 2010 and 2014 seasons.

Cawthan made it his focus for the BFNL to carefully consider how board deliberations would impact on the four country clubs, and especially their volunteers, when arriving at their decisions.

10/. Brianna Dalrymple-Monro: won her second Betty Thompson Medal as the standout A grade netballer, but in the 2016 season turning out for Strathfieldsaye.
She’d won 2011’s top netball award when playing for Sandhurst with her twin sister Erica.

Brianna polled 31 votes to win by three from Gisborne’s Maddy Stewart, and clinched the 2016 fairest and best medal with a three-vote in her final Round 18 game against the Bulldogs. But despite Brianna’s terrific form the Storm missed the A grade finals series.

Richard’s tips for Round 3: Storm, Kang. Flat, South Bendigo, Sandhurst and Kyneton (under lights, vs. Castlemaine).
2017 total: 7.

By Richard Jones